Canberra Times, 26 January 2011.
© Canberra Times
By John Huxley
Elite group says design overhaul overdue
In an unprecedented show of
strength and purpose more than a
dozen Australians of the Year dating
back to the 1960s have declared their
support for a new national flag.
Patrick McGorry, the outgoing,
2010 award-winner, said yesterday
that the current design was a source
of confusion overseas and considerable
embarrassment at home.
"It′s time Australia grew up. Right
now, it′s a bit like a slowly maturing,
generation Y adolescent, a 27-yearold
who just won′t leave home," he
said, calling on the nation to move
belatedly into "independent adulthood".
Professor McGorry, a mental
health expert who believes a new flag
is now an "achievable goal" on the
way to the greater prize of a republic,
is one of 15 former winners who have
signed a statement calling for
Other signatories include clean-up
campaigner Ian Kiernan (1994),
swimmers Dawn Fraser (1964) and
Shane Gould (1972) and scientists
Ian Frazer, Sir Gustav Nossal (2000)
and Tim Flannery (2007).
Ausflag, the non-profit organisation
which drafted the statement,
believes it can secure support from
other award recipients, including
runner Cathy Freeman (1998).
It is understood only a few of the
previous winners approached withheld
Harold Scruby, who founded Ausflag
in 1981, said, "This is a major
breakthrough, backed by some of the
nation′s most respected people."
Timed to coincide with the traditional
Australia Day debate on
national identity, the statement says
the present flag is a transitional
symbol that "highlights and promotes
the flag of another nation",
the British Union Jack.
"We must boldly take the next step
and define ourselves confidently and
distinctly before the world. Our new
flag must be unambiguously and
inclusively Australian, representing
all of us equally.
"We believe the time has come to
embrace a flag worthy of our sovereign,
independent, mature, egalitarian
nation; our own flag."
The high-powered proposal, which
comes after a series of unsuccessful
moves to replace the flag, calls on
parliament to produce a design
which, "like our national anthem,
can be put to a plebiscite of the
Australian people". Supporters concede
that, like devising an acceptable
model for a republic, designing a flag
to meet Australia′s needs will not be
Mr Kiernan said, "So much mythology
is involved that a redesign will
always be contentious."
Ausflag alone has promoted three
design competitions in 1986 leading
up to the bicentenary; in 1993
after Sydney won the right to host the
2000 Olympics; and in 1998, in the
run-up to the new millennium.
Not surprisingly, though the signatories
insist the reflagging process
should not be divisive, they have
different views both on the shortcomings
of the present flag and the
design of what might replace it.
For example, retired public administrator
Lowitja O′Donoglitie (1984)
says the current design "symbolises
dispossession and oppression ...
represents a monoculture and intolerance"
towards indigenous people".
On one thing they agree the time
for change is long overdue. Irishborn
Professor McGorry, who has
been an outspoken critic of Australia′s
refugee policy during the past
12 months, says there is no excuse for
"I am sure some people will say,
′Oh, this is not the time, Australia has
other priorities′. But that′s pathetic.
Governments can deal with dozens,
hundreds of issues at one time. We
can walk and chew gum at the same
time, you know."
To continue ignoring the issue
would only confirm a widespread
feeling, apparent since the last federal
election, that there was a lack of
leadership in public life, he said.
Mr Scruby says the Gillard Government
would, no doubt, like to "run a
mile from the subject", but he has
confidence in the latest initiative.
Meanwhile, Ausflag is now on the
hunt for commitments from other
Australians of the Year as well as
former prime ministers such as Paul
Keating, Bob Hawke and Malcolm